« Prev Lecture Third. Next »

LECTURE THIRD.

CALVINISM AN INSIDIOUS SYSTEM—INCONSISTENT WITH THE FOREKNOWLEDGE, OPPOSED TO THE WISDOM, AND SUBVERSIVE OF THE HOLINESS OF JEHOVAH—DESTRUCTIVE OF HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY.

ISAIAH xlii. 9.—“Behold, the former things are come to pass, and new things do I declare: before they spring forth I tell you of them.”

ISAIAH vi. 3.—“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.”

JAMES i. 13.—“Let no man say, when he is tempted, I am tempted of God.

THE system which we are engaged now in examining, like every other system of error, is, in many respects, very like the truth. But for this circumstance, it is impossible to conceive how it could meet with any countenance at all from Christian men. It is not, however, without very high-sounding professions of consistency with, and attachment to, the Word of God; and it adapts itself so cunningly and artfully to the language of Scripture, that it seems at first sight, and without a very careful and sifting examination, to be in no respect whatever inconsistent with the revealed mind of God. You will accordingly observe that the leading abettors of this system begin to wax very furious and indignant whenever we venture to intimate the slightest suspicion of the soundness of their creed. It is thus, however, with every counterfeit. The base 89 coin would not pass current at all unless it bore a very striking resemblance to the genuine gold. The forgery would never answer its end unless it was very like the real signature. And were it not for the single fact, that the system of theology which we oppose does retain in plentiful abundance, and exhibit in bold relief, much of THE PHRASEOLOGY of Scripture, its real character would be instantly detected, and it would stand out exposed before the eyes of men. It is in the shape of an angel of light that the destroyer of the souls of men for the most part appears. And it is under the character and pretensions of a system of Bible truth that Calvinism makes its advances among the children of men. There is, accordingly, a wonderful TALKING about free grace and gospel tidings and divine sovereignty and human depravity, and such like important doctrines, among the abettors of this system. So manifest is this fact, that the simple and guileless multitude of men and women who are imposed upon by mere appearances, are very naturally shocked and disgusted whenever they hear it faithfully announced, that the system whereby they are verily deceived and imposed upon is really and truly a subverter of those precious truths which it professes to respect. The name of truth is, indeed, retained, but the thing signified by the name, even Truth herself, has been banished from the system. And were it not that the lovers of truth delight in listening to the very mention of her name, and never dream of suspecting, or so much as examining minutely into the real character of the Confession of Faith, and 90 do find in THE BIBLE what they would never discover in THE CREED, it would not be possible to find one solitary Christian man prepared to stake his Christian reputation, side by side, with the system of which we speak. It is a relief to the mind which contemplates this horrid system of delusion to reflect, even for an instant, upon the circumstance to which we now advert. Many of the abettors of Calvinism are really ignorant of the system which they unhappily patronize: “they know not what they do;” “they themselves are saved, so as by fire.” But while such persons are really angry with us when they listen for the first time to the grave and heavy charges which we advance against their system, “they do not well to be angry.” And we should do no better if we were deterred, either by the disapprobation of good men, who are imposed upon by the mere pretensions of a theology which they have never examined, or by the impotent rage and calumnious aspersions of bad men, who know full well that the system cannot stand examination, and spend their strength in deceitful attempts to patch and paint the idol whereby precious souls are ruined: if either by the frown of the one or the fury of the other, we were deterred from faithfully and affectionately warning you and your children of your danger, we should be verily guilty of our brother’s blood. We do not calumniate the system we oppose; we ourselves were many a long year deceived by it, and at the expense of the disruption of many a tie dear to flesh and blood, we have come out from its fatal 91 and contaminating influence. We call upon you, our brethren, to “come out and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing.” He is the calumniator who lifts his voice and wields his influence against a truth which he has never examined or brought to the test of the Word of God, but which he ignorantly stigmatizes by the name of heresy. We ask no more from any man among you than an examination of what is said to be true. If it be truth, it cannot suffer from the most searching scrutiny. And whoever he be who would dissuade or deter you, or himself shrink back from openly and honestly bringing his system of theology to the test of the Word of God, thereby betrays an innate consciousness of its weakness. While it is, therefore, a relief to the mind to believe that many of the adherents of this system are the children of God, it is unspeakably painful to think that any of the children of God should continue to countenance the system. They are betrayed, as we have said, by ignorance of the true character of what they sinfully uphold. They are seduced by mere pretensions. They are charmed away by a pleasing sound. No phrase is more frequently exhibited by this theology than FREE GRACE; but we have seen in our former Lecture that while the name is not taken away, the system we oppose destroys the thing itself, and really subverts the grace of God in the justification of the sinner who believes.

We are about to call your attention this evening to another example of the perfidiousness and treachery of Calvinism. This system professes to be very zealous 92 for the character of God, and more particularly does it profess to vindicate and uphold the great Bible doctrine respecting the FOREKNOWLEDGE, the WISDOM, and the HOLINESS of Jehovah. If it failed to exhibit this profession, the eyes of good men would at once be open to its true character, and it would instantly lose the influence which it exerts by virtue of its Christian name and its high religious pretensions. But we hope this evening to convince you, that the doctrine of Calvin and the Confession is really subversive of the divine foreknowledge as well as inconsistent with the wisdom and holiness of the Godhead.

IV. THE FOURTH OBJECTION WHICH WE NOW ADDUCE AGAINST THE THEORY UNDER CONSIDERATION, ARISES FROM ITS INCONSISTENCY WITH THE DIVINE FOREKNOWLEDGE.

When we speak of foreknowledge, we use a word which is familiar to you all. It may not be unnecessary, however, to anticipate and guard against prevalent misconceptions, by calling your attention, in this place, to one or two simple explanations. It will be observed, therefore, (1,) that foreknowledge implies, in every instance, the FUTURE and CERTAIN existence of the object known or apprehended by the mind. It is not FORE or before-hand knowledge if the object known or apprehended have a present or a past existence; and it is not KNOWLEDGE at all if there be any doubt or uncertainty in reference to the existence of the object apprehended, whether we conceive that object to be 93 past or present or future in relation to the intelligence which apprehends it. There may be conjecture or guesswork where there is something less than positive certainty, but without certainty there can be no knowledge. You will notice, farther, in this connexion, (2,) that knowledge is something which is necessarily and invariably present in relation to the intelligence of whom such knowledge can be truthfully and invariably predicated. If it can be truly and invariably said of any being that “HE KNOWS,” it is evident that the knowledge is invariably present whether the object of knowledge or the thing known be removed from him by space or by time—whether it be distant or future or past. The knowledge or act of the mind in knowing is always a present act, wherever the knowledge exists and by whomsoever it is possessed. My friend may be far distant from me, but the knowledge which I possess of his excellences is present; distance of time or place does not and cannot affect the knowledge itself, which can neither be past nor future nor distant, but, wherever it exists at all, exists necessarily as a PRESENT KNOWLEDGE. You will notice, (3,) that it is not the knowledge which originates the certainty, but the reverse. An event is not certain because it is known; it comes within the sphere of knowledge because it is certain. The knowledge of any event, whether past, present, or future, does not affect its certainty: it is known because it is certain. The cause of its existence must be sought elsewhere than in the knowledge whether fore or after. Foreknowledge does not, any more than after knowledge, 94define or certify anything as to THE CAUSE OR ORIGIN OF THE OBJECT apprehended by the mind.

You will observe the importance of such explanations, the oversight of which lies at the foundation of much error and misconception on the subject now under consideration. Of this you may be convinced by a mere passing reference to a very popular and threadbare story, which is, no doubt, regarded as a conclusive demonstration by modern Calvinistic divines. It is related in the form of a conversation which is said to have taken place between a certain Independent minister and a fellow-traveller who strongly objected to the Calvinistic decrees.

“I would ask,” said the minister, “is the great God under any necessity of waiting till the last day in order to determine who are the righteous that are to be saved, and the wicked who are to perish?”

“By no means,” said the other, “for he certainly knows already.”

“When do you imagine,” asked the minister, “that he first attained this knowledge?” Here the gentleman paused, and hesitated a little; but soon answered, “He must have known from all eternity.”

“Then,” said the minister, “it must have been fixed from all eternity.”

“That by no means follows,” replied the other.

“Then it follows,” added the minister, “that he did not know from all eternity, but only guessed, and happened to guess right; for how can Omniscience know what is yet uncertain?”

95

Here the gentleman began to perceive his difficulty, and, after a short debate, confessed it should seem it must have been fixed from eternity.

“Now,” said the minister, “one question more will prove that you believe in predestination as well as I. You have acknowledged what can never be disproved, that God could not know from eternity who shall be saved unless it had been fixed from eternity. If then, it was fixed, be pleased, sir, to inform me who fixed it?”—Quoted in Bonar’sTruth and Error,” pp. 61, 62.

The gentleman is here said, as the story goes, to have acknowledged he had never taken this view of the subject before, and to have promised on the spot never more to speak against John Calvin or his decrees.

You have here a specimen of a class of very ignorant or very crafty ministers on the one hand, and of very simple and very thoughtless gentlemen on the other. Both parties evidently overlooked the fact, that KNOWLEDGE defines nothing whatever respecting THE CAUSE of the event known. Knowledge, whether of a past or of a future event, apprehends the certain existence of whatever it apprehends at all, but it does not cause or originate the existence of anything whatever. But both the minister and the gentleman failed to observe this fact, and so they erroneously concluded that God’s infallible knowledge of all events, involves, on his part,. the necessary causation of all events, as if nothing whatever could be certainly foreknown unless it were certainly and absolutely decreed, or “fixed,” by God himself. The gentleman was, therefore, confused 96 and mystified by the gratuitous and false assumption, that unless God had himself unconditionally or absolutely “fixed” or decreed whatsoever comes to pass, he could not foreknow the certain existence of anything future, but “ONLY GUESSED, and happened to guess right.” But if this gentleman had only considered what he unfortunately overlooked and misapprehended, he would have seen at once that the knowledge of any object, past, present, or future, does not call that object into existence, or render its existence certain. He would have seen the very opposite to be true. Ho would have seen that the knowledge of anything future presupposes and apprehends its certain future existence, no less evidently than the knowledge of any present or past event presupposes and apprehends its present or past existence, altogether independently of, or (it may even be) altogether opposed to, the will of the being who knows it. When our Saviour was upon the earth, he compassionately sought to convince his crafty antagonists by wisely saying unto them, “I also will ask of you one question” (Mark xi. 29), instead of replying directly to their leading queries, which were purposely framed to entrap and to ensnare him. And if this Christian gentleman had followed the example of his master, he would have replied to the very first question of the minister who led him into the snare, by proposing a question which would have “fixed” his reverend adversary. When the minister asked him, “Is the great God under any necessity of waiting till the last day IN ORDER TO KNOW who will be saved and who will 97 be lost?” the gentleman would have done well to have said, “I also will ask of you one question—Is the great God under any necessity of himself causing and necessitating the, commission of sin, ‘IN ORDER TO KNOW’ the sinful actions which shall be committed by devils and by wicked men?” Had such a question been kindly and respectfully proposed, we should very probably have heard nothing at all from Calvinists of the threadbare narrative which it has become fashionable to retail. Such a question as this would certainly have brought the minister to a stand, even as our Saviour’s question “fixed” the Pharisees when he asked them, “The baptism of John, was it from heaven or of men?” The minister would very probably have paused and argued thus within himself:—“If I shall say that God is the primary cause of sinful actions, I fear the people, because they believe that ‘THE LORD OUR GOD IS HOLY;’ and if I shall say that God can foreknow any thing which he has not himself determined to bring to pass, he will say, ‘Why then do you believe John Calvin’s unscriptural creed?’”—and so, in all likelihood, the debate would have terminated.

But it is at this point that the inquiry ought to begin. The question is, whether it be not a blasphemy against God to maintain a creed which affirms plainly that, “for his own glory, God hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” Our opponents in this argument, have no right to hold that this question is to be decided simply on the faith of their false and blundering assertions. They have no right to assert and to take 98 it for granted, without even an attempt at proof, that OMNISCIENCE is capable of doing no more than “GUESSING” after an event, unless OMNIPOTENCE be pledged to bring that event into being. We are entitled to demand the strongest PROOF in support of this important statement, and our friends who oppose us are not entitled to give us no more than bare ASSERTION in its support, as from the time of their sainted Augustine they have invariably done. We demand the evidence in support of the assertion on which Calvinism and Fatalism and Socialism are all of them based—the assertion that God himself is incapable of foreknowing things future, without previously resolving, by his Omnipotence, to bring them into existence.

On this point we have been absolutely deluged with assertion, but we look in vain for one particle of proof. It has been assumed, as if it were even an axiom, that whatever is UNDECREED by God is for that simple reason a thing UNCERTAIN, and to be fathered upon a nonentity which men call “CHANCE.” You will notice therefore the importance of the simple facts which have been. already submitted to your attention, and you will more particularly remember that the very idea of foreknowledge implies the idea of certainty, but the question remains still to be disposed of, whether it be true, as Calvinists assert, that God cannot foreknow future events, without first of all decreeing their certain existence, and then apprehending them through the medium of his own decree.

That such is the position maintained by Calvinists, is, 99evident from all their writings, from some of which I select now one or two quotations.

I call your attention, in the first place, to a single statement from their great master himself. John Calvin writes as follows, in the twenty-third chapter of the third book of his Institutes:—

“Since he [God] DOTH NOT OTHERWISE FORESEE the things that shall come to pass, than because he hath decreed that they should so come to pass, it is vain to move a controversy about foreknowledge where it is certain that all things do happen rather by ordinance and commandment. . . . . No man shall be able to deny but that God foreknew what end man should have, ere he created him, and THEREFORE FOREKNEW IT BECAUSE he had so ordained by his decree.”—Sec. 6, 7.

Such are Calvin’s own words, and you will notice that there are two separate and distinct statements contained therein, the first of which is admitted to be true, but the second of which is altogether false and unsupported in any place by the smallest shadow of evidence. The first statement asserts what no man denies—the foreknowledge of God. The second statement assumes what cannot be proved, and what no Calvinist, so far as we know, has ever attempted to establish by anything like proof, viz., that God does not foreknow anything he has not himself fixed by his own absolute and irreversible decree. But, unfortunately for Calvinism, it so happens that the very point which is universally taken for granted, is the precise point which needs to be unanswerably proved.

100

Jerom Zanchius, another distinguished Calvinist; writes as follows:—“God’s foreknowledge, taken abstractedly, is not the sole cause of beings and events; but his will and foreknowledge together. Hence we find, Acts ii. 23, that his determinate council and foreknowledge act in concert; THE LATTER RESULTING FROM, AND BEING FOUNDED ON, THE FORMER. . . . . Consequently it is his free pleasure to permit sin, since, without his permission, neither men nor devils can do anything. Now, to permit, is, at least, the same as not to hinder, though it be in our power to hinder if we please; and this permission or non-hindrance is certainly an act of the Divine will. Hence, Austin says, ‘Those things which seemingly thwart the Divine will are nevertheless agreeable to it; for if God did not permit them, they could not be done; and whatever God permits he permits freely and willingly. He does nothing, neither suffers anything to be done against his own will.’ And Luther observes that ‘God permitted Adam to fall into sin, because he willed that he should so fall.’”—The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination, translated from the Latin of Zanchius, by Augustus Topladly, with Prefatory Essay by the late Dr. Pringle of the Secession Church, Perth, pp. 39, 40.

This quotation proves not only that foreknowledge is held by the Calvinist to be founded on God’s absolute decree, but it evinces still farther the important fact, that according to this theology the foreknowledge is really confounded with the decree altogether, inasmuch as it is in plain words spoken. of as in connexion 101 with the the decree, “THE POSITIVE CAUSE of all beings and events.”

This wonderful mixture of truth and error is exhibited by Mr. Bonar of the Free Church, in his appropriately-named book. I quote the following extract from the fiftieth page of “TRUTH AND ERROR.”

“It is of some importance [says Mr. Bonar] that we should settle the nature of these two things, predestination and foreknowledge, and ascertain which of the two is first. The question, is ‘Does God fix a thing simply because he foreknows it, or does he foreknow it because he has fixed it?’ . . . . I answer unhesitatingly, That PREDESTINATION MUST BE THE FOUNDATION of foreknowledge. God foreknows EVERYTHING THAT TAKES PLACE BECAUSE HE HAS FIXED IT.”

We pause again to call your attention to the absurdity which Calvinists incessantly perpetrate by a sheer forgetfulness of the plain explanations to which we have formerly adverted. Mr. Bonar writes as if anything foreknown needed to be subsequently fixed by a decree of God, and he accordingly proposes the ridiculous question, “Does God fix a thing simply because he foreknows it?” He cannot conceive of anything as certain or foreseen as certain, unless it has been fixed unalterably by the almighty will of God! And so you will observe, that this writer gives us the benefit of his own simple assurance in common with that of his fellow Calvinists, that God first fixes and decrees to bring everything to pass; and then, and only then, is it possible for God to know beforehand anything that shall afterwards happen!

102

The only other quotation which I shall now make, is from the Lectures on Theology, which were delivered to the students of the Secession Church (now United Presbyterian), by the late Dr. Dick of Glasgow.

“No effect can be viewed as future [says this Professor], or, in human language, can be the object of certain expectation, but when considered in relation to its efficient cause; and the cause of all things which ever shall exist is the purpose of God, ‘who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.’ As the knowledge of God does not depend upon the actual existence of objects—for this would limit it to the present and the past—so it does not depend upon any conditions attached to their existence. He does not know that such things shall happen, if such other things shall go before; but the whole series of events was planned by his infinite understanding, the ends as well as the means: and he foresees the ends, not through the medium of the means, but THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF HIS OWN DECREE, in which they have a certain future existence. They will not take place without the means, but THE PROPER cause of them is not the means, but his almighty will.”—Vol. i. p. 384, first edition.

We add no more in this place in the shape of quotation, and we have detained you with such extracts, from ancient and modern authors, simply with the view of anticipating the charge of misrepresentation, which Calvinists are not slow to make whenever their dogmas happen to be subjected to a fair examination. It is better therefore to leave our friends to speak for themselves.

103

What then do you think of their creed? What is its evident bearing upon the foreknowledge of the Deity? Does it not reduce the attribute of omniscience to a mere name, and resolve it into a thing which is dependent upon, and subordinate to, the omnipotence of the Godhead? Does it not strip God of his peculiarly glorious distinction, as an ALL-SEEING Jehovah? And while this theology does retain the name, does it not set aside the reality, and represent God himself as reduced to the necessity of learning or acquiring the knowledge of futurity, exclusively from his present existing determinations and his present existing power? And is not this, properly speaking, a knowledge of something PRESENT, as much as of any thing future? When we speak of knowledge as INTUITIVE, we surely mean to express something very different from knowledge ACQUIRED through any medium whatever. And when we ascribe omniscience to the Deity, we surely mean to intimate something more than the possession, on his part, of a mere perception of what is his present will at any future time to bring assuredly to pass. Such a knowledge as this is possessed by the meanest of created intelligences. The question, therefore, resolves itself simply into this—“Whether the knowledge of God be, or be not, distinguished from that even of the highest of his creatures, by virtue not only of its extent, but more especially of its independence—its absolute independence, even of his own decrees.” We humbly submit that this question must be answered in the affirmative, from the 104 three following considerations:—Consider (1) the innate and infinite perfection of the Divine intelligence, and say whether omniscience needs to derive its information through any conceivable medium. Consider (2) the infinite purity of the Divine nature, and say whether sin and every abominable thing which exists, could possibly find its origin and cause in the mind of a holy God—a supposition involved necessarily in the hypothesis, that God needed first to decree in order that he might be able to foreknow whatsoever comes to pass. Consider (3) the direct and explicit language of Scripture, wherein the decree of God is exhibited as consequent upon his foreknowledge, which is a plain contradiction of the theory that his foreknowledge is dependent upon his decree. It is written, for example, in Rom. viii. 29, “Whom he did FOREKNOW, he also did PREDESTINATE;” and in 1 Peter i. 2, “Elect ACCORDING TO the foreknowledge of God.” In such like statements of the inspired record, the foreknowledge is in the order of nature prior to the decree.

We say not only that Calvinism is UN-scriptural, based as it is upon a gratuitous assumption which derives no warrant from the Word of God; but we are entitled to denounce this figment of man’s imagination as ANTI-scriptural, inasmuch as it is founded entirely upon the monstrous conception, that nothing whatever could possibly be certainly apprehended, even by the Divine mind, save through the medium of a horrible and demon-like decree. And more especially do we now call your attention to the fact, that the true and proper 105 foreknowledge of the Deity (by which we mean his independent and intuitive apprehension of all things actual and all things possible—of all things future as well as of all that is past or present) is blasphemously denied by the theory now under consideration. This theory degrades the Godhead beneath the level of many of his creatures. Whatever any sinful creature possesses the power to do, and resolves to carry into execution, the creature must of necessity foreknow. Grant ye that he has the will to act, and that he possesses in addition to the will, the power to carry his purpose into execution, and the basest of the fallen intelligences must needs be able, with infallible certainty, to predict the result. But there is nothing peculiar—nothing wonderful in any sinful mortal claiming and possessing an attribute such as this. You may wonder at the man’s power, or you may be astounded at the man’s purpose to employ his power in any given direction, but you cannot wonder at the man’s knowledge. He merely predicts or foretells what he has himself determined to carry into effect in the exercise, it may be, of his astonishing powers. Suppose that it is a deed of darkness which the man contemplates. He comes to you announcing, for example, that on some future day, and at a given hour, your friend will certainly die. You are astonished at the man’s intelligence. You ask eagerly and anxiously how he happens to know the very day and hour when his fellow-mortal is to be ushered into eternity. But what if, at the hour and day appointed, you come. to learn that the pretended 106 prophet did himself determine to murder your friend with his own hand, and did acquire his foreknowledge through the medium of his own decree? Would you, in such a case, laud your informant as a very wonderful prophet? Would you not rather proclaim him a murderer—a cool, deliberate murderer—whose dire prediction was founded solely on his dire decree? In such a case the murderer has no claim whatever to the character of the prophet. It is not his foreknowledge, but his villany, of which you would speak. And in such A case it might well be questioned, if it be not an abuse of language to ascribe to him the attribute of foreknowledge at all. The reason is, that in such a case what the man knew was, properly speaking, his own dark and villanous intention, and his own abused and perverted power. But these were PRESENT at the time when the prediction was first announced, and it was through the medium of these alone that the murderer pried into the future, and so, strictly speaking, it was not so much the knowledge of the future event, as the knowledge of a present determination or purpose, which was intimated to you in the form of a prophecy. This is a revelation of a purpose already formed, which depends for its fulfilment merely on the will and power of the executioner, and forms of itself no proper exhibition of foreknowledge on the part of the individual who utters it.

Let this illustration be applied to the question now before us., It is said that the decree of God is the exclusive foundation of his foreknowledge. He is said to foreknow whatever shall come to pass, simply because 107 he has himself resolved, by an act of his almighty will, to bring about whatsoever comes to pass. His knowledge, therefore, of the events of futurity is not anything more than a necessary existing consciousness of his present determination, coupled with a consciousness of his resistless power. It amounts to nothing more than a consciousness of what he himself has purposed, in the exercise of omnipotence, to bring about. And while it cannot be denied that all this may exalt the power of God, we hold it to be self-evident, that it strikes at the root of his omniscience, which involves, on his part, the independent or intuitive perception of all the thoughts and words and deeds of his free and intelligent and responsible creatures, and that too from the unbeginning ages of eternity.

This is the peculiar glory of God as an omniscient being. His peculiar glory consists in his knowing infallibly from all eternity the free volitions and actions of free and responsible agents who exist in time. This is what is fitted to strike the human mind with wonder and adoration. That God should know, with infallible certainty, all the thoughts and intents—all the purposes and doings, of all the generations of men before men came into being! That is the wonder. And that forms the grand and striking peculiarity of the prophetic announcements contained in the blessed Bible, which being fulfilled to the very letter, in the history of the human race, have, in every age, manifested the book wherein they are contained, to be emphatically THE BOOK OF GOD.

108

While, therefore, there exists not a creature, however ignorant or vile, who does not know, of necessity, beforehand, whatever he has the will and the power himself to execute, and who may not, in every such case, predict the result with infallible certainty,—while the most debased of created intelligences is possessed of foreknowledge such as this, where is the man or the angel, however exalted in intellect or knowledge, who can predict, with infallible certainty, what shall be the volitions and actions of moral and intelligent agents, upon whose minds no irresistible force is exercised, but WHO ARE FREE to think and act, to choose or to refuse, as each shall independently determine? This is something which the Bible assures us belongs only to God. This is an achievement so truly marvellous, and so far beyond the reach of men, that no man can tell how it comes to pass. Here is something ABOVE reason, and here we have an apt illustration and example of the principle adverted to at the outset of our last Sabbath evening lecture, in reference to what is above reason as distinguished from what is contrary to reason. There is nothing here to shock our reason. There are no such palpable contradictions as are to be found everywhere in Calvinism for men to gulp down—there is no contradiction at all in this glorious truth. And though it be far above the reach of the human mind to scrutinize the HOW and the WHEREFORE—though no man nor angel can say, how it is or wherefore it is—we have here something which exalts the Godhead in our conceptions, 109 and which constrains us to wonder and to adore. “’ Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty un.to perfection? It is high as heaven, what canst thou do? deeper than hell, what canst thou know? The measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.” Job xi. 7-9. The disciple of Calvin tells us that HE, forsooth! cannot understand how God can possibly foreknow whatsoever comes to pass, unless it be that God has fixed, by his decree, every abomination that takes place under the sun, and has determined himself to bring it about. And what does the self-blinded devotee presume to do? He presumes to measure the mind of God by his own puny intellect, and to affirm that God must have infallibly and unconditionally “foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” And why? Because short-sighted mortals cannot understand how God can foreknow anything as certain, or can do more than “GUESS” the existence of anything which God has not himself determined to bring into being! This is not only most unfair and inconclusive reasoning, if reasoning indeed it can be called, it is the framing of a man-made, arbitrary theory; it is pure speculation, and that, too, in direct opposition to the Word of God. What said the sweet singer of Israel? Did he deny such knowledge as this, because it was peculiar to God, and far too wonderful for his finite comprehension? Did he attempt to bring the subject of the Divine foreknowledge down to the level of his capacity by approaching 110 the blundering, blasphemous conclusion, that GOD MUST have first resolved to exert his power in determining his downsitting and his uprising, and giving birth to his every wicked thought, and chalking out his every devious course—and then, and thus only, was enabled to know all that concerned him long before his thoughts came into existence? Such was not the mind of the inspired psalmist. “O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising; thou understandest my thought afar off. Thou compassest my path, and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.” Psalm cxxxix. 1-5.

What, then, was the conclusion at which the psalmist arrived? Did he account for the circumstance, that God knew his thought afar off, on the Socialist principle, that God had decreed the existence of his every thought? Did he console himself under his iniquity by falling back upon the decree of God as the ultimate cause of it? Did he say that he could easily account for the foreknowledge of God by tracing that knowledge to a previous decree? No such thing. He immediately adds (verse 6), “SUCH KNOWLEDGE IS TOO WONDERFUL FOR ME; IT IS HIGH, I CANNOT ATTAIN UNTO IT.” But such knowledge is not too high for the follower of Calvin! He can explain it all! He has a ready-made theory, whereby he can easily account 111 for knowledge such as this! It is such knowledge as any creature can attain unto, even as every creature must necessarily foreknow the existence of what he has himself decreed! The Calvinist will not condescend to stoop down to the position occupied by the psalmist, but he at once rushes onward, in the pride of his system of theology, to the impious DENIAL of the Divine foreknowledge of every thought, word, and deed of men and devils, which God has not originated and foreordained! Horrible conclusion! Away with the theology which inculcates it! Such a theology is a wild dream of pagan philosophy, a delusion, and a falsehood from the father of lies, wherewith he practises a foul deception upon the souls of men!

We have already quoted an extract from Jerom Zanchius, translated by Toplady, and recommended by Dr. Pringle of the Secession, to the Scottish public. And as we have distinctly asserted that the doctrine of Calvin and the Confession of Faith is part and parcel of pagan philosophy, we here read to you the reply which Toplady gives to this very grave accusation, which has been long ago advanced against the theory now under review. In the fifteenth page of his preface, this writer meets the charge by indirectly admitting it:—

“But does not this doctrine tend [says he] to the establishment of FATALITY? Supposing it even did, were it not better to be a CHRISTIAN FATALIST than to avow a set of loose Arminian principles, which, if pushed to their natural extent, inevitably terminate 112 in the rankest Atheism? For, without predestination there can be no Providence, and, without Providence, no God.

“After all, what do you mean by FATE? If you mean a regular succession of determined events, from the beginning to the end of time; an uninterrupted chain, without a single chasm; all depending on the eternal will and continued influence of the GREAT FIRST CAUSE; if this is Fate, it must be owned. . . .

“It having been not unusual, with the Arminian writers, to tax us with adopting THE FATE OF THE ANCIENT STOICS, 1 thought it might not be unacceptable to the English reader to subjoin a brief view of what those philosophers generally held (for they were not all exactly of a mind) as to this particular. It will appear to every competent reader, from what is there given, how far the doctrine of FATE, as believed and taught by the STOICS, may be admitted upon CHRISTIAN PRINCIPLES.33    We also take the liberty of quoting, in our Appendix, this precious morsel of heathenism, from which the reader will see whence Calvinism has sprung—not from the Bible, but from the schools of pagan philosophy, Toplady himself being witness. See Appendix. . . .

“For my own particular part [adds Toplady] I frankly confess that, as far as the coincidence of the STOICAL FATE with the Bible predestination holds good, I see no reason why we should be ashamed to acknowledge it. St. Austin, and many other great and excellent men, have not scrupled to admit both the word 113 (viz., the word FATE) and THE THING, properly understood. I am quite of LIPSIUS’S mind, ‘Et vero non aversabor STOICI nomen; sed STOICI CHRISTIANI,’ i. e., I have no objection to be called a STOIC, so you but prefix the word CHRISTIAN to it.”—Preface to Zanchius on Predestination, by Toplady, pp. 15-17.

Such, then, is an honest confession of a disciple of Calvin of no mean name. The system speaks for itself, and no man who looks it in the face but must see more of the pagan than of the Christian pervading its every feature. But as we live now in an age and country where many Calvinistic divines labour not to defend, but to conceal and hide, the abominable system from the eyes of the multitude, who still, in tears, follow it onward to the scaffold, it is necessary to hold it up before you as it has been stated and defended by a generation of less temporizing and more honest men. There is no need for weeping and bewailing the approaching destruction of this monstrous system. Let every Christian man and woman in this audience rejoice and give thanks to God, that the time has arrived when the great majority of professed Calvinists are ashamed of their idol, and are tacitly, at least, even now, consenting to its too tardy execution.

V. WE OBJECT TO THIS THEORY OF ELECTION, BECAUSE IT SUBVERTS THE WISDOM OF GOD IN HIS DECREES.

We take Dr. Dick’s own definition of wisdom, as found in the Twenty-Second Lecture of his course. This author very truly says, “Wisdom cannot exist 114 without knowledge, but knowledge may exist without wisdom; and accordingly there are men possessing very extensive information who, in their conduct, give many proofs of thoughtlessness and folly. In an all-perfect being, they are necessarily conjoined, omniscience supplies the materials of infinite wisdom. As God knows all his creatures, all their powers and qualities, all the purposes to which they may be rendered subservient, all the relations in which they may be placed, and all the possible consequences of all possible events, he is able infallibly to determine what are the most proper ends to be pursued, and what are the fittest means of effecting them.”

With these sentiments every one must agree. But you will observe their bearing upon the system now tinder review.

There can be no wisdom without knowledge going before it. And thus it is that WE argue out the wisdom of all God’s purposes and decrees. They are most wise, because they are founded upon the foreknowledge of all the future volitions and actions of free agents who shall exist in time.

But Calvinism says that the foreknowledge of God is founded on his decrees. God knows whatever shall come to pass, in consequence of having already decreed whatever shall come to pass.

The decree of God is accordingly represented as independent of, and in the order of nature before, his knowledge.

Seeing, therefore, that there can be no wisdom without 115 knowledge, the decrees of God cannot possibly be wise! Themselves the foundation of all knowledge in the mind of the Deity, they preceded all knowledge, and were formed ignorantly and blindly! Such is the predestination of Calvin. It is nothing more nor less than blind necessity—unadulterated fatalism. We proceed to notice,

VI. THAT THIS THEORY OF ELECTION DESTROYS ALL MORAL DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN RIGHT AND WRONG, GOOD AND EVIL; AND THEREBY STANDS OPPOSED TO THE HOLINESS OF GOD.

We have already seen that it traces every thing which takes place in the universe to the almighty will of God, as the efficient and primary cause of all. It is very often said, in so many words, by the supporters of Calvin, that God is not the cause of sin; but such a true saying, proceeding from Calvinists, is nothing more nor less than an idle and unmeaning and heartless compliment. Such a truthful announcement is contradicted by the system, and is a mere word of course. It reminds one of the traitor Judas, when he went up to Jesus and said, “Hail, Master, and kissed him.” It is verily true that God is not the author of sin, but why should men cleave to a system of theology which represents God as the only originator and cause of all iniquity—a system which forces men to the conclusion that, in asserting the holiness of God, the Holy Spirit is studiously hiding and concealing the truth—a system which makes God the author of every 116 abomination that ever was perpetrated among men? Does the Shorter Catechism make any exception when it says, that “God has foreordained WHATSOEVER comes to pass”? Does it not here trace everything, without exception, to the decree of God? Does it not teach babes and sucklings to say, that God has decreed every sinful action; and, in connexion with this, that “God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence”? Here is, first of all, every abomination fathered upon the decree of God and here is, in the second place, God pointed out as the active executioner of the whole array of wickedness that comes to pass in the history of devils and of men Here is, surely, “THE MYSTERY OF INIQUITY,” which, even in apostolic times, had already begun to do its deadly work, and to emit its horrid blasphemies. Listen to another statement from Zanchius, from whom I have already quoted: “I would infer [says this writer, p. 63] that if we would maintain the doctrine of God’s OMNIPOTENCE, we must insist upon that of his UNIVERSAL AGENCY; the latter cannot be denied without giving up the former. Disprove that he is almighty, and then we will grant that his influence and operations are limited and circumscribed. Luther says that God would not be a RESPECTABLE BEING, if he were not almighty, and THE DOER OF ALL THINGS THAT ARE DONE; or if anything could come to pass in which he had no hand.”

In accordance with this doctrine, Mr. Bonar of the Free Church says, in “Truth and Error,”—“Nothing 117 in the universe takes place without the will of God. This is admitted. But it is asked, Is this will first in everything? I answer, Yes. The will of God goes before all other wills. It does not depend on them, but they depend on it. ITS MOVEMENTS REGULATE THEM. The ‘I will’ of Jehovah is that which sets in motion everything in heaven and in earth. The ‘I will’ of Jehovah is the spring and origin of all that is done throughout the universe, great or small, among things animate or inanimate.” P. 24.

It follows, naturally and necessarily, from this doctrine, that there is no distinction between good and evil, right and wrong, truth and error, sin and holiness! Everything is in accordance with the “I will” of Jehovah! His will must be right; and whatever is, is accordingly RIGHT—seeing that everything is in accordance with the will of God, who “would not be a respectable being,” if he were not himself “the doer of all things that are done,”—devils and wicked men being only the passive tools in his almighty hand!!!

Said we not truly that we have here the full development of “the mystery of iniquity,” bellowing forth her horrid blasphemies against God; and by her loud and specious pretensions of attachment to the Word of God, deceiving, “if it were possible, the very elect”? The upholders of this system make an attempt to wrench from the hand of the Spirit his own “sword,” by the perversion or abuse of which they all the more effectually slay the souls of men. It is not for us to say one word about their motives. For 118 these they are responsible to God, and God alone can see their hearts. Let God be the judge of their motives. We say not that the men MEAN to destroy souls by perverting the Word of God, and wresting Scripture itself in support of their blasphemy. We speak not of what they intend to do, but of what they persist in doing. And we affirm, that they not only charge home upon a holy God all the iniquity which takes place among devils and men, but they wrest the very Scripture, and pervert its blessed truths in order to gain currency for their false philosophy, whereby God is dishonoured, and merchandise is made of the souls of men. In order to prove that God has foreordained all iniquity, the author of “Truth and Error” singles out the most awful crime upon record, and fathers it directly upon God’s decree, and refers to the Bible itself in support of his theory. “Everything in this world [says Mr. Bonar] happens according to God’s eternal arrangements. Nothing takes place except what God causes to be, or permits to be; and whatever happens in time, is decreed from eternity. EVEN THE WICKED DEED of those who crucified the Lord of Glory is said, by the apostle, to be determined before by the hand and counsel of God. Acts iv. 27, 28; also ii. 23.”—Truth and Error, p. 37.

Here, then, is a very plain and distinct statement, on the part of our Free Church writer, and if this statement be true, we must admit that God is the author of all iniquity. But we are prepared most emphatically to deny the statement which this writer has made. 119 The passages of Scripture referred to DO NOT ascribe to God “THE WICKED DEED” of those who crucified the Lord of Glory. God determined beforehand to do whatever HE HIMSELF DID in the transactions of Calvary, but he never decreed any part of the wickedness which was perpetrated there, or which has been perpetrated elsewhere by devils or by wicked men. But as this assertion commits us to a full examination of the two Scripture passages which have been perverted in the quotations we have just read, we reserve such examination as the subject of our next discourse.

120
« Prev Lecture Third. Next »



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |